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North Korea may reconsider summit. TRANSCRIPT: 05/15/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Michael Schmidt, Robert Costa, Kimberly Atkins, Joe Cirincione, Anita Kumar

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: May 15, 2018 Guest: Michael Schmidt, Robert Costa, Kimberly Atkins, Joe Cirincione, Anita Kumar

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, as the President cries foul over the "Russian witch-hunt," Rudy Giuliani tells NBC News tonight that the Trump and Mueller teams are in a holding pattern in their talks toward a sit-down interview.

And minutes ago, a late-breaking story just posted by "The New York Times."

Plus, is it over before it begins? Kim Jong-on threatens to back out of the much anticipated summit with Donald Trump.

And voters back at the polls today in four states. Steve Kornacki manning the big board tonight with full results.

THE 11TH HOUR. on a Tuesday evening begins now.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News Headquarters here in New York. Day 481 of the Trump administration. And as promised, we have news just breaking tonight from "The New York Times," minutes before we walked into the studio, in fact. It`s about an e-mail related to the Russia investigation. Dual byline on the piece.

Reporters Nick Fandos and Michael Schmidt write, "The White House official had a startling assertion. He thought he had received an e-mail in the first half of 2016 alerting the Trump campaign that Russia had damaging information about Hillary Clinton."

"Testifying behind closed doors on Capitol Hill in late March, the official, John K. Mashburn said he remembered the e-mail coming from George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the campaign who was approached by a Russian agent, sometime before the party conventions and well, before WikiLeaks began publishing messages stolen in hackings from Democrats. Such an e-mail could have proved explosive providing evidence that at least one high-ranking Trump campaign official was alerted to Russia`s meddling, raising questions about which advisers knew and undercutting President Trump`s denials of collusion. But two months after Mr. Mashburn testified, investigators for the Senate Judiciary Committee have found -- have not found any such message."

"The special counsel, Robert Mueller, was also searching for similar e- mails according to a person familiar with the request for documents that his investigators sent to the Trump campaign. The campaign, which has examined its e-mails and other documents, also cannot find the message, and officials do not believe it exists."

We wanted to get more on this. So being kind enough to join us on the phone to talk about his breaking story tonight, "New York Times" Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Correspondent Michael Schmidt.

Michael, I note a little bit later in the story, there`s a lot of critical details in here, but he`s asked about it again and, given the chance, does not change his contention that this came in and he saw this.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES" (via telephone): The interesting thing about Mashburn is he`s someone who`s well regarded, someone that`s seen as a straight shooter. There`s no question that people believe what he`s saying. The question is, well, does the e-mail exist? And no one seems to be able to find it. And for us, this sort of provided a window into where the investigation is today.

You have to remember the FBI has been looking at ties between Russia and the Trump campaign for two years now, nearly two years. And here we are, you know, investigators, whether they`re on Capitol Hill or for Bob Mueller, searching around for such e-mails. Now, it doesn`t exist, so it`s sort of a mystery of sorts. If you`re an investigator on Capitol Hill, do you believe what Mashburn is saying, or do you sort of fold up shop because you can`t find the e-mail from the campaign?

WILLIAMS: What`s interesting in large part about this is the delay you and I have spoken about so often, that the stories that reach the public domain, even as good as your sources and methods are, often lag by weeks to months behind the work of Mueller and their team, a shop that is virtually leak-proof. But in this instance, this appears to be the kind of Holy Grail of e-mails that remains out there.

SCHMIDT: That`s the thing is that if there was such an e-mail, it would be very explosive. It would be tantalizing as it would provide greater insight into the central question of the investigation. What did the campaign know about Russia`s efforts to influence the election? George Papadopoulos, the former campaign adviser, when it came out last year that he knew the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton, it really provided degraded list of insight into what the campaign knew throughout. And when this came up to congressional investigators, they said, "Wow, this could be potentially a huge deal."

They looked at the e-mails they had from the campaign, and they saw nothing there. There was nothing to back it up. So that`s what set off the search for it, but they have found nothing more satisfying.

WILLIAMS: Michael, one more quick question and answer. I`ll let you go, and I thank you for calling in. And that is devil`s advocate. People watching tonight and seeing the wording about how critical this e-mail could be would be forgiven for asking, wait a minute. Are you telling me the Mueller investigation doesn`t have enough else in terms of explosive evidence and information that something like this would be that critical to their case?

SCHMIDT: Well, I think to understand Mueller, you have to understand that he has to look at every little thing.


SCHMIDT: There have been over a million e-mails handed over to Mueller, dozens and dozens of witnesses have gone before grand juries. Hundreds of people have been interviewed. Looking at every different piece of this to understand a Counterintelligence investigation like this one, experts say that you need several years if not even a decade to understand what really went on. And this is the painstaking work of investigators. This is trying to provide an idea for people of what it`s like to work on this investigation either someone working for Mueller or for Capitol Hill.

You have to hear something from a witness. You try and find a document. In this case, they have not been able to find that document yet.

WILLIAMS: Michael Schmidt, Pulitzer Prize winner for "The New York Times," our thanks tonight for answering your phone. We really appreciate it.

SCHMIDT: Thanks for having me.

WILLIAMS: Now, we turn to the other details we`re prepared to report and talk about tonight, including but not limited to the latest information about Rudy Giuliani`s attempt to fine common ground with Robert Mueller, as it were, when it comes to negotiating that sit-down interview between the President and the special counsel. Giuliani tells our own Kristen Welker just tonight that he`s spoken by phone with Mueller`s team within the last 24 hours, in fact, and says talks about a potential Presidential interview are in a "holding pattern." That gets your attention.

He also says the President`s legal team is waiting to hear from the special counsel about whether they`re willing to agree to limit the interview in terms of questions and timing. Giuliani says he expects to meet with Trump sometime later this week.

Meanwhile, the President is trying his best to ignore the fallout from that leaked beyond derisive comment about John McCain`s battle with terminal brain cancer. White House aide Kelly Sadler made the remark during a meeting. The White House has refused to apologize amid growing anger from a lot of McCain`s fellow Republicans in the Senate.

Today, six days after that remark, the President went to Capitol Hill for a long working lunch with Senate Republicans. Members of his own party. Here`s what they said before they sat down with the President.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, should the White House apologize to John McCain for the remarks that aide made last week?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I believe so. Obviously the President`s made it pretty clear he doesn`t apologize for things, and that`s -- it`s something I don`t necessarily agree with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the White House owe him an apology?

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: If I had said that, I would apologize.

SEN DAN SULLIVAN (R), ALASKA: Of course there should be an apology, and I think more broadly, we need to be thinking less about kind of, you know, senseless comments and more about prayers for a great American, right?


WILLIAMS: Exactly none of the Republican senators brought up the McCain comment or the lack of a White House apology while in the room with the President today. After the lunch concluded, the Senate Majority leader was asked about the administration`s silence.


GARRETT HAAKE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Does it bother you that almost a week ago now someone on the President`s staff insulted one of your senior colleagues John McCain with this morbid joke and then no one from the White House has apologized for it even today as far as we understand?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, the person who said that should apologize and should apologize publicly.


WILLIAMS: "The Washington Post" talked to two other Republican senators afterwards. It yielded this. "I think everybody involved should apologize," said Senator John Kennedy, no relation, Republican of Louisiana. But this was a policy meeting, right? It was policy-driven. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee added, "that`s not what we do in those meetings."

From the President today, we all got this. "Can you believe that with all of the made up, unsourced stories I get from the" capital f, capital n, capital n "Fake News Media together with the $10,000 Russian witch hunt," a couple of capitals there, one more in "there`s No Collusion. Now I have my best poll numbers in a year. Much of the media may be corrupt, but the People, who deserve a" capital p, "truly get it."

And yesterday, he framed the controversy in terms of White House leaks saying leakers are traitors and cowards. The President Trump woke up to some needed air support from his favorite morning program.


STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS HOST: The President relies on his advisors to be around him, to speak their mind. It`s just sad that the President cannot trust his own staff.



WILLIAMS: And here on this network, we got this from a veteran of the Trump White House who during his brief tenure there vowed to fire all the leakers.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR: The whole thing is a real shim actually. It`s a cloud over the administration because people are asking a question what`s wrong with the culture? If you said something that you didn`t mean or you said something you wish you could take back, why are you not apologizing? And so, listen, you know, they`ll have to answer that.


WILLIAMS: And one last thing. We have a new development reported tonight in "The New York Times." The Justice Department and FBI are investigating Cambridge Analytica, the now defunct political data firm that worked on Trump`s election and other Republican campaigns in 2016. The London-based company was accused of harvesting the private data of at least 50 million Facebook profiles.

The "Times" reports it`s unclear if the investigation is linked to the inquiry being led by Robert Mueller. A lot to talk about. Sorry for the exposition.

Let`s bring in our lead-off panel for a Tuesday night. Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post", moderator of Washington Week on PBS. Kimberly Atkins, Chief Washington Reporter for "The Boston Herald." And John Heilemann is back with us, Co-author of "Game Change and Double Down" and Co-host of "The Circus," currently airing Sunday nights on "Showtime." Welcome to you all.

Robert Costa, I am tempted to begin with you in your role as longtime Giuliani whisperer. There`s a lot of stories at the top of the broadcast to react to tonight, but what`s your reporting tell you the possibility of a Trump-Mueller sit-down is right now?

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": The possibility remains more remote by the minute. The more you talk to the former New York mayor, the more you recognize that the Trump legal team at this moment is preparing to formally decline an interview with the Mueller investigators, and they`re prepared to have a legal battle against the Department of Justice over an interview, perhaps even fighting a subpoena from Mueller`s team. And this is already laying out the argument.

You have Giuliani talking to Kristen Welker and other reporters, saying the President`s just too busy on foreign policy. It`s not the time. He`s sending every signal to Mueller, "we`re not going to do it."

WILLIAMS: John Heilemann, Cambridge Analytica, to take nothing away from the reporting of "The New York Times" on this story, it stands to reason, correct, that Mueller et al. would be taking a good, hard look at Cambridge Analytica?

JOHN HEILEMANN, NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It does. Look, one of the -- now we talk about the Mueller probe in Rumsfeldian terms. I`ve heard this recently starting to creep into our dialogue where we talk about the known knowns, the unknown knowns and the unknown unknowns. One of the known unknowns is that Bob Mueller is going to issue indictments for sure that relate to the hacking of the Democratic Party`s e-mail systems and the hacking of John Podesta`s e-mail system.

WILLIAMS: Expect to be in the next round.

HEILEMANN: Yes. And the question is when. We don`t know how many, we don`t know of whom, we don`t know how far reaching. We don`t know a lot of things about it. But we know it`s going to happen.

And when you think about that piece of the puzzle, which is the -- you know, he`s done a little bit on the social media piece and that influence. But when you think about the breaking and entering part of it, then you think about where those two things come together, Cambridge Analytica is at the heart of the data story, the influence story, the media story, and possibly also some of the breaking and entering story. So, yes, of course I think it`s incontrovertibly obvious that given how far-reaching the Mueller probe is and how many places it has its tentacles that that Cambridge Analytica is almost too obvious to mention as something the Mueller probe would be looking at.

And I`ll add just one thing about Costa said a second ago, which is that, I had lunch today with Chris Christie, who is among other things an excellent attorney and was a U.S. attorney and someone who talks to Donald Trump still, not on Donald Trump`s legal team, but someone Donald Trump talks to and gets advice from about the intersection of law and politics. Chris Christie is telling him exactly the same thing that Bob Costa`s says seems to be the consensus on the legal team, which is you shouldn`t sit down with Bob Mueller under any circumstances. And part of the reason Christie thinks he shouldn`t sit down with him, I think in the calculus is, he thinks Mueller will never subpoena Trump and that he will never have to fight that battle on the basis of what he knows of Bob Mueller, who he worked with for a long time, and what he knows about where this investigation stands at the moment.

So I think the President is hearing from not just people like Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow but some other people who are maybe a little more sober. Even those people are telling him don`t do this.

WILLIAMS: OK. Kimberly Atkins, I`m looking at you, lawyer and journalist, and both of your skill sets for this question. Robert Mueller, while exalted and heavenly figure to members of the opposition to President Trump, has done a lot of work with mobsters in the past and is not above using all the leverage he`s got to make people talk. Do you think that is a possibility in this case? And the other side of my question is what leverage does Rudy and the Trump team have to secure ground rules like limited scope and written questions?

KIMBERLY ATKINS, CHIEF WASHINGTON REPORTER, THE BOSTON HERALD: Yes. I think it depends. I think the cards are being held by Robert Mueller at this point to be sure. He has that power to subpoena. Whether he chooses to use it or not might be a different matter, and President Trump and Rudolph Giuliani are at an inferior bargaining point.

I think Rudolph Giuliani is doing a very -- the very best job he can to sort of message to President Trump that he is trying to limit the scope of the questioning or of any interview that comes forward. But at the end of the day, that is up to Robert Mueller. Now, Robert Mueller, in the interest of talking to the President and not having them refuse an interview at all, may choose to say, "OK, we`ll do something limited just to get him in." But at the same time, he could insist on more and use his subpoena power otherwise.

He`s certainly in the superior bargaining spot. Only he knows and his team knows exactly what evidence they have, and that`s going to drive that decision that they ultimately make. But despite what Rudolph Giuliani says, it really is Robert Mueller`s decision.

WILLIAMS: Bob Costa, what does the fact that no Senate Republicans raised the issue of John McCain in lunch with the President, what does that say about all the Senate Republicans?

COSTA: They`re nervous. It`s evident. They`re nervous about the midterm elections, but they`re also nervous about the ire and wrath potentially of President Trump. This is someone who`s such an outsider to them even at this moment, someone who is in control of the party, control of the White House, and his own lawmakers, those especially in the Senate, some of the veteran Republicans.

They just don`t want to have the fight just a few months before the midterms with the President of the United States. So you see even Senate Majority Leader McConnell saying Ms. Sadler should apologize, but they don`t want to have a protracted battle. They know this is a President who never apologizes for almost anything, and it`s a reflection of where the Republican Party is.

WILLIAMS: John, you`ve seen the President try to make this about the leakers. The White House continues to insist it`s an internal matter even though Americans kind of hold dear John McCain`s place in American life and society. Tell our good viewers your view of this President as a leaker and this White House as leakers go.

HEILEMANN: Donald Trump is not the first president of the United States who has had relationships with reporters where he calls reporters on the phone, not necessarily through the normal channels of communication where he communicates with some people. I don`t think in all the presidents I`ve covered, that goes back to George Herbert Walker Bush, I`ve never seen a president who does it as much as Donald Trump does from what can gather, not obviously all of his phone calls. But one hears enough things and certainly during the campaign, he called more reporters with more frequency than any candidate I`ve ever covered --


HEILEMANN: -- including Bill Clinton, who did a fair amount of that kind of thing. So I think that goes on and there`s a lot of stuff you read in the press that is coming either through Trump or through people or one cutout from Trump. If he doesn`t talk to you directly, he talks through people who are like one step removed, which is not any different from the actual direct leaking.

And I think the White House is certainly -- everyone has said this is the more boring thing to say in the world. But it was worse at the outset when the White House was more chaotic. And it was more chaotic in the first six months than it is now. There is no historical precedent that I know of for the amount of information that`s leaked and people have said we learn more about this presidency through leaks in the course of a week than you learn through all channels combined in a normal month or two months of any other presidency I`ve ever covered. That`s I believe accurate.

WILLIAMS: Good point. Hey, Kim, I want to read you this readout of the GOP lunch thanks to our friends at "The New York Times," Julie Davis and Nick Fandos.

"Mr. Trump talked about his accomplishments, including the surging economy, the decisions to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and to pursue nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea, and the opening of the United States embassy in Jerusalem. And he recounted how he persuaded President Xi Jinping of China to release three American college basketball players arrested in China for shoplifting luxury goods, according to three people who were present or were told about his comments. Mr. Trump joked about the episode, marveling that three 7-foot-tall athletes could think that they could get away with stealing in a country where most people he said are around 5-feet-tall. Senators left the meeting privately comparing Mr. Trump`s freewheeling performance to a comedy club routine, according to one person briefed on the lunch."

Kim, what do you say after that, and what about the part of it that it was a working lunch?

ATKINS: Yes, it is a working lunch. I think the Republicans did not press him on the issue of the comments made about John McCain and other things because they`re thinking about the midterms, and they are not going to rock the boat. They think that they need Trump to gin up the base and to bring out the base for the midterms. And they are going to go along with what he says until then and not challenge him.

I mean what he said today was, you know, you can call it like a comedy routine. You can also call it like his stump speeches, and the President made clear that he is going to be out on the campaign trail for the midterms, pushing, and pushing to try to help the Republicans hold on to the slim lead they have in the Senate at least and maybe try to stave off, if possible, the Democrats taking over the House. So for now the Republicans are putting their eggs in that basket, and they`re riding with it.

COSTA: There is actually some contentment among the Republican senators and their source. People close to them I spoke to today, Brian, because they say they`re fine with the President talking about anything at this time. But they`re glad he`s not joining the chorus at least publicly with them, privately with them about the Mueller probe because they watch the other chamber.

You have Congressman Meadows and Chairman Nunes in the House, really looking at the Department of Justice, mounting an argument of case against the DOJ on the Mueller investigation and how certain documents have been handled. And if the President`s doing as one source said a comedy club routine, they think that`s better than any kind of constitutional crisis that could be on the horizon.

WILLIAMS: We welcome the word "contentment" to our broadcast, making a rare appearance. We haven`t heard that around here in months. And with it, our thanks to Robert Costa, to Kimberly Atkins, to John Heilemann. Much appreciated, guys. Thank you very much.

Coming up, in an abrupt move, North Korea cancels a meeting with the South. Will the summit with the American President face the same fate? We`ll have the latest on the next move for Donald Trump.

And later, it`s primary night in Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon, Pennsylvania. Yes, we have returns. And, yes, we have Steve Kornacki at the big board to break down the results. THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on a Tuesday evening.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you deserve the Nobel Prize, do you think?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it. You know what I want to do? I want to get it finished. The prize I want is victory for the world, not for even here. I want victory for the world because that`s what we`re talking about. So that`s the only prize I want.


WILLIAMS: We`re seeing the dangers tonight of getting out ahead of a summit with a volatile adversary. Just a short time ago, you may have seen the breaking news graphic at the bottom of our screen. The Reuters News agency reported, "North Korea said it may reconsider holding a summit with the United States if Washington continues to unilaterally insist on North Korea giving up its nuclear program, the North state media said on Wednesday.

North Korea`s Central News Agency, is there any other, also said the fate of the U.S.-North Korea summit as well as bilateral relations would be clear if Washington speaks of a Libya-style denuclearization for the North. The statement added, U.S. President Donald Trump would remain as a failed President if he follows in the steps of his predecessors. This comes just hours after North Korea pulled out of its high-level talks with the South and made an earlier threat to that June 12th summit.

They`re apparently angered by the ongoing long scheduled, by the way, joint U.S.-South Korea military drills. The Pentagon released a statement today saying the exercises are defensive in nature and part of a routine annual training program.

Earlier today, the State Department says preparations for the summit are still under way and the North has not notified the U.S. of any official change.

Well, let`s talk about it with two of our experts tonight. Anita Kumar, White House Correspondent from McClatchy Newspapers and Joe Cirincione, President of Ploughshares Fund and Author of the appropriately titled "Nuclear Nightmares, Securing The World Before It`s Too Late."

On that note, Joe, a lot of folks -- we`ve had this conversation, the three of us have on this broadcast. We`ve been walking around, the U.S. has, talking in advance about denuclearizing North Korea, and on shows like this, guests like you have said, you know, good luck with that. It`s been at great expense. The people are eating dirt so they have the money to afford a nuclear program.

The question to you, Joe, is this a real threat to the summit, or is this just the right flank, the hard liner under Kim Jong-un making their presence known?

JOE CIRINCIONE, AUTHOR, NUCLEAR NIGHTMARES: I believe it`s the latter, Brian. And you know, we are very clear about the politics in our own country and how that affects national security decisions. We sometimes mistakenly think that other states are unitary actors. They are not.

Even in a dictatorship like North Korea, there are factions. There are politics. It`s pretty clear that some of the hard line factions in North Korea may think that Kim has given too many concessions without getting anything back. Kim may think that himself.

It`s very clear that this statement by a very high-ranking -- this is an official in North Korea. This is Kim Kye-gwa. He`s the first Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs. He`s pushing back directly on John Bolton. He mentions him by name in the statement that was just released.

We`re just getting the English translation within the last 15 minutes. And he specifically pushes back on Bolton`s comments over the weekend that reference a Libya-style denuclearization. In other words, that North Korea give up everything all at once, that they hand over all their documentations, that they deport all their nuclear scientists, that they send their nuclear weapons to France to be dismantled before the U.S. would do anything.

And what North Korea is doing is reasserting its position that it`s made clear with the Chinese, and the Chinese agree with it, that it`s made clear to the South Koreans and the South Koreans agree with this, that this is a denuclearization of the peninsula, not a unilateral step first by North Korea. And that involves concessions by the United States, including things like a peace treaty, including things like security commitments to North Korea. That`s what they`re reasserting.

They`re reacting directly to John Bolton. I think the administration or part of our administration overreached. North Korea is pushing back.

WILLIAMS: Well, that`s interesting.

Anita, on the news coverage side of this, by just how much was the administration surprised with today`s announcement?

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: Right. Well, they were taken by surprise. You saw the State Department said that they had no knowledge of anything that was going on, and the White House also had no comment for several hours. And that was before when we had gotten the first initial word about that the summit was at risk, , not just tonight`s news.

You know, it`s just -- the situation is that the White House and the president has made the expectations for this summit huge. I mean they`ve been talking about it for weeks. If you`ll recall, President Trump immediately agreed to this when it was brought up without having a full discussion about it. He`s campaigned on it at his campaign rally recently. You know, he staged this entire -- when the prisoners came home the other day, you know, this made for TV moment.

So he`s really, really counting on this and had expected maybe not everything to go OK when they have the summit in June. He had talked about we could still walk away. But I think he did expect it to happen.

WILLIAMS: Joe, a former president once said to me, it sure looks different from the cheap seats. And isn`t that true? It`s true about all of us who are sports fans, all of it. It sure looks different from the cheap seats. Few people know what it`s like to be president, what it`s like to serve a president, the West Wing, over at the State Department.

My question to you is what would your advice be? There are fewer old Korea hands, as they say, in the government, fewer of those institutional employees who have got some experience under their belts. They`ve been around. They`ve seen scares before, ups and downs in the relationship. What should the newbies know about what they`re getting into?

JOE CIRINCIONE, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR NIGHTMARES": Right. The very first piece of advice is an old one. Don`t panic. Don`t overreact to this. Don`t make it any worse. We now have multiple channels of communication with North Korea.

Let`s use them. In fact, just as I walked into the studio, there was a late breaking story that apparently U.S. and North Korean and South Korean officials are getting on the phone to talk about this and see if there`s some way to clarify what everybody`s position is. That`s number one.

Number two, recognize that negotiations have phases, and we`re now in sort of the mid phase. We`re now four weeks out from the summit. Expect this push and pull. Expect posturing. This is kind of what you would think each side would do, stress their maximal positions to try to get concessions from the other side.

And, three, this is what you were saying, Brian. Bring in some of the older hands, some of the people that have been excluded. For example, people you`ve had on the show like Chris Hill or Victor Schaub (ph), bring them in to talk and give you some advice. That`s what Mike Pompeo above all needs right now.

WILLIAMS: Hey Anita, Americans got nervous during the fire and fury days. That was saber rattling. It involves nukes that could potentially reach our country. That was scary, and we saw that in the polling when things started to thaw. A CNN poll on the upcoming summit, do you agree of Trump`s decision to meet with Kim Jong-un? 77 percent approval rating. We can`t agree that many people on apple pie in this country, so that does show you there`s a whole lot of people who want to see this happen.



KUMAR: I mean definitely. You`re so right. Remember, last year when there was all that talk, when President Trump was making all those comments, there were a lot of people that were worried. There were people on Capitol Hill that were worried that another war could start.

So, yes, I mean there are definitely people all over in Washington and across the country that really do want this to happen. I just think that we have to remember one thing, which is we`re talking about, you know, this is midway another four weeks ago.

One thing that I`ve heard over and over is that it`s usually lower level people, right, not the president, not the two leaders, that generally work out a lot of the details before hand. By the time that you have a summit, it`s when you`ve already made some big deal, and the leaders are getting together. So this is sort of going in the opposite direction, right? The president agreed to this meeting before all his ducks were in a row.

WILLIAMS: One final point of order. When New Jersey blueberries are in season, they will give any apple pie a run for its money. Our thanks tonight to Anita Kumar and Joe Cirincione, thank you both. Always great to have you on the broadcast.

Coming up, why is the president worried about jobs in China? Why is he going to bat for a Chinese cell phone company the U.S. has tried to cripple, a company our intel chiefs fear is trying to spy on us through their devices? Two specialists standing by to talk with us about it when THE 11TH HOUR continues.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you assess that ZTE represents an economic or security threat to the United States?

WILLIAM EVANINA, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL COUNTERINTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY CENTER: Thank you for the question, senator. I believe the intelligence community and law enforcement is clearly on the record both in the public and in classified settings with the threat from Chinese telecommunications companies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you ever use a ZTE phone?

EVANINA: I would not, senator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you recommend anyone in any sort of position that`s sensitive whether in commerce or in government or in contracting use a ZTE phone?

EVANINA: No, I would not.


WILLIAMS: This is all the way of making the point these ZTE phones are a thing. That was one of the nation`s top intelligence officials joining the chorus of intel experts who say this Chinese phone company, ZTE, poses a massive risk to our U.S. security. The head of the FBI has said publicly ZTE devices may be spying on us, conducting undetectable espionage in our country, in our hands in some cases.

The U.S. stopped doing business with ZTE after the company illegally sold products to Iran and North Korea in violation of U.S. sanctions. They`re not allowed to use American parts in their phones anymore. That has crippled the company. That was a good thing, or so we thought, so people were shocked this weekend to read the president saying that he was working on, "A way to get ZTE back into business fast." It was striking to read the leader of the United States saying, "Too many jobs in China lost."

Tonight an article in "Vanity Fair" goes there. The headline is, "Is China straight-up bribing Donald Trump?" It goes on to say, in the subhead, "The president suddenly softens on a Chinese business after Beijing bankrolls a Trump organization project."

Well, here to talk about it tonight, Clint Watts, former FBI special agent, member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force as well as the national security analyst for us. He`s also an author. His new book out later this month is, "Messing with the Enemy, Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorist, Russians, and Fake News". And Stephanie Ruhle, a veteran of the business world. The host of the 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. hours here on MSNBC.

Clint, talk about these phones and this company. All I needed to hear was their sale has been outlawed on PXS, the stores on military bases across our country.

CLINT WATTS, FMR FBI SPECIAL ANALYST: Yes. I only know the names of two Chinese companies, ZTE and Huawei, and that`s because you`re not supposed to buy stuff that comes from them. That`s what you were told if you worked in the intel business because there`s three weaknesses we have with this. One, it`s the hardware. There could be opponents put into these phones.

WILLIAMS: They could be little Trojan horses?

WATTS: Yes. They can be used for espionage. And it`s really two kinds with China, which we`ve heard the president talk about before. Economic espionage, which is stealing intellectual property. And then the other part, which is political and military espionage, the traditional stuff that we talk about where they drill into our defense contractors, into our defense systems.

The other part is software. This all has code in it, and the code constantly has to be updated. So you could give them a baseline code and just like those updates that we see whenever we update our phone, you could then slip in code in there that turns on certain features of that phone for intel collection.

And then the third part is what is called managed services, which is I have a contract to keep up and maintain these phones. That gives me a back door that I can constantly come in and change the configuration of that phone if the government wants me too. We`ve seen the Chinese government go into these tech companies on many occasions and tell them this is what you need to do to manipulate things.

WILLIAMS: Stephanie, you saw the way "Vanity Fair" put it. This didn`t make sense to anyone when we read it.

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC CO-ANCHOR: Well, it made sense to the market in terms of the idea that, wait a minute, President Trump was angry with China, thought they were becoming a superpower, had a closed economy, and they were going to get something happen in trade negotiations.

Now, if they were, you knew China was going to come in and say ZTE matters to us. But any rational person would say, yes, but there`s no way Trump is going to play ball there. They steal intellectual property that way. That`s a huge issue for us. But when Trump suddenly says, yes, I`m going to change my tune, from the market perspective -- and the market doesn`t care about national security. They`re going, oh, great, maybe something`s going to happen here

If Trump has to negotiate because he needs China to work with him to get something out of North Korea, well, denuclearization of North Korea is more important to us than ZTE, and fast forward one day later, and it doesn`t seem like we`re going to get much out of North Korea.

WILLIAMS: I`m not guessing, Clint, your first concern is the market. You are concerned about devices people are carrying around, and disproportionately, a lot of low income phones buy this brand phone. It`s the fourth largest seller in our country. One of 10 phones is this brand.

WATTS: Right. And it is a great way to gain, you know, access into a market. And it`s a great way, if you`re a foreign country, to build some sort of espionage capability.

WILLIAMS: It`s a force multiplier as you guys in the military, as a West Point graduate, you used to say.

WATTS: Yes. It`s just really odd as well because if you go back to the Obama Administration when we were really talking about this, it`s supply chain risk in telecommunications. I t was a big focus for espionage purposes. It was the Republicans that were the hawks on this because it was two things they were worried about, foreign intelligence and China. These were the two issues they were pushing really hard on.

So the other odd part about this is we have a president who is a Republican, who seems to be going soft on this. And also by the way, just got rid of the cyber czar position and his top policy officials on cybersecurity after we just got hit by the Russians with election interference and hacking, and we have this supply chain issue with china. It`s just baffling.

RUHLE: You showed sound from Marco Rubio saying this doesn`t make any sense, and it doesn`t. President Trump cited tariffs on aluminum and steel as a national security issue. A national security issue is intellectual property, not aluminum.

WILLIAMS: As a political matter, if we`re in a bar tonight in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, what do people say when we ask them about how it felt to read the president`s words supporting jobs in China?

RUHLE: Well, that one is a little bit complicated because, remember --

WILLIAMS: A little bit?

RUHLE: -- all of these companies, parts do go from the United States to China. So it could impact U.S. jobs. But at the end of the day, someone in Pittsburgh or New Jersey or Idaho reads this and says, hold on a second. President Trump, who has been saying for a year and a half China is hurting our country, is stealing our business, is killing our jobs, is a currency manipulator, is now turning around saying, too many Chinese people lost their jobs. It simply doesn`t make sense.

So when you find out -- and I`m guessing we`re going to go there -- that there may be a tie to a Trump deal and China giving $500 million to a deal that would help the Trump Organization, that`s where everyone is going, give me a break.

WILLIAMS: In your line of work, when things smell bad, how much of the percentage of the time are they bad?

WATTS: Almost 100 percent. I think what`s interesting is there`s two ways to really influence a foreign adversary. One is with communications. So we`ve always talked about President Trump and his Twitter feed and the fact that if you want to get something out there, you just go to television or Twitter. You put it in his face, and that`s a way to influence him.

The other way is through money. And so this is the other part, whether it`s the Mueller investigation or now this China deal, where we never saw his tax records. We don`t understand how his business works. We don`t know what he`s divested from. And so we can never be sure is he doing America first or Trump first when he goes into these negotiations.

RUHLE: Brian, we know Michael Cohen had a business of selling access or influence with President Trump. And here we have President Trump`s team in China, his sons run his business, and now you`ve got a massive deal, $500 million in loans from the Chinese government with another $500 million from government-run banks. Even if it only smells bad and isn`t bad, smelling bad is enough.

WILLIAMS: We`ll go out on that quote. Smelling bad is enough from our two watchdogs tonight, Clint Watts, Stephanie Ruhle. Thanks so much for staying up with us tonight, guys.

Coming up, it`s Tuesday. It`s primary night for folks in four different states. Up next, Steve Kornacki at the big board to tell us what tonight`s results mean for the party in power and the party that would love to be when THE 11TH HOUR.


WILLIAMS: Another primary election night is upon us. Just minutes ago, polls closed in Oregon, Idaho, two of the four states that held midterm primaries today. Voters in Pennsylvania and Nebraska headed to the polls as Democrats look to continue their recent momentum, Republicans look to build fire stops wherever they can. Veterans viewers know the drill. They know what primary night means around here, it means our national political correspondent Steve Kornacki working late and back at the big board with all the numbers to break it down tonight. Hey Steve.

Steve Kornacki, MSNBC National Political Correspondent: Hey Brian. Thanks for that. Yes, we`ve late-breaking drama. We`ll show you in a minute. But first we want start in Pennsylvania. The results all coming in right now. Again the back drop here, you remember Trump`s president because of Pennsylvania. At the same time a lot of Republican House seats here. Democrats trying to flip.

So, we had primaries today what happens in some of the marquee primaries in Pennsylvania, a state where Democrats say, hey, if they`re going to win back the House could it be ground zero in Pennsylvania. So first of all, this right here, Democratic primary. This is in the first district, Philadelphia suburb, Bucks County, Republican Brian Fitzpatrick is the congressman. This will be one of the most closely watched raises in the country as well.

The Democrats have chosen Scott Wallace. This what a big of a controversial choice here for Democrats. Wallace, lots of money, spent millions of dollars in this race. He defeated Rachael Reddick, a navy vet, former Republican.

The idea here of the resistance to Trump on the left being in suburbs, being led by women, former Republican and some people felt Reddick may be only better position to tap into that in the general election. But Democrats here going with Wallace, we will see if that gamble pays off. Again this is against Bryan Fitzpatrick. We will talk a lot about this race going forward.

Also in Pennsylvania, this is the district Charlie Dent, the Republican vacating. Democratic side Susan Wild wins. I can tell you the progressive wing of the Democratic Party breathing a huge sigh of relief because John Morganelli whom she defeated a conservative democratic, specially in immigration. Have been very friendly to Donald Trump on that issue. Susan Wild is going to be the Democratic nominee in the Dent District.

And this here a bit of a surprise. Republicans in Washington, if this holds will breathe a sigh of relief. This is the candidate. The establishment wanted. This is the guy who basically said, hey, if you want to vote for Trump, he`s not on your ballot, vote for me. The Republican establishment wanted now (INAUDIBLE), looks like he will. So that looks like it will be the match up there, but this very close.

Republicans not too pleased it was that close. You also have this. Remember this name Rick Saccone lost that special election to Conner Lamb a few months ago, turned around, reigned in a newly configured 14th district. His Republican opponent said, hey, the guy is a loser. Couldn`t win a special election, don`t give him another nomination. Republican voters didn`t. Saccone loses. Again, he loses the Republican primary tonight.

Also, a primary for the Senate in Pennsylvania, Bob Casey, the Democrat is up. His opponent, no surprise. Congressman Lou Barletta, one of the first congressmen to endorse Donald Trump. Then we say, we had some late breaking drama. You mentioned the other primaries. Here it is.

Nebraska, the second district. This is one Democrats think in a wave they could win back. The National Democratic Party was hoping Brad Ashford, a former congressman from this district would win this. He was challenged from the left by Kara Eastman and just in the last few minutes a final batch of votes put came in putting Eastman, 172 votes ahead of Ashford. It appears critically 50.3 percent, 49.7 percent. The trigger for recount is 0.5. Half a percent.

It looks like if this hold, there`s no vote. And this is a 100 percent reporting. According to secretary of state, Eastman will be outside that window, could very well be the Democratic nominee. This interesting because national Democrats thought maybe she is too progressive for this district. That will be a test. She`s running on single payer. Again, this is part of Nebraska. Obama won a congressional district here. One electoral vote in 2008. This is where that is. So that will be an interesting test.

And we`re just starting to get numbers in Idaho here. Gubernatorial primary. The interesting thing. Raul Labrador, member of Congress running behind in the early vote count lieutenant governor there. We`ll see if another congressman loses a state wide primary.

WILLIAMS: Wow, a barn burner in Ohio -- in Idaho and Nebraska. Fantastic stuff tonight Steve Kornacki at the big board. Thank you for all of that.

KORNACKI: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: Coming up for all of us, I giant of the written word, a giant of the silver screen by extension, and while we`re at it an iconic last in the world of fashion, all have been lost with the death of just one man who we will remember after this.


WILLIAMS: The last thing before we go tonight, if there`s a god in heaven, he or she is probably getting chatted up right now by Tom Wolfe, so he can get the cadence and speech patterns down for his next book.

Tom Wolfe is gone. And he is being remembered tonight as a foremost man of leathers in this country, and perhaps that would please him because it`s something you rarely hear anymore, it`s a throw back as was he.

For starters who do you know who wears spats and white three-piece suits and high starch collars in 2018. He famously call his own fashion neo pretentious in harmless form of aggression. But the term throw back only applied to his clothing and his often courtly southern manner, everything else about him was brand new to us and way ahead of his time. He was present at the creation of new journalism. His essays from back then continue to a maze by 2018 standards. His famous work "The Right Stuff" is correctly regarded as the history of the birth of our space program. It is somewhat remarkable that Chuck Yager who lived at the edge of the envelope survives the author today.

And Tom Wolfe`s great novel, "Bonfire of the Vanities" will always resonate in the corridors of the moneyed class in New York and in the criminal court houses that are society`s great equalizers.

Tom Wolfe born in Virginia. The holder of PhD from Yale. He was a New York Herald Tribune newspaper man at heart who landed in a literary world too often littered with defeat and the frigilent (ph).

The great artists the one who alter their art form come along once in a generation if we are lucky. Tom Wolfe a great artist got dressed in a suit and tie to write at his typewriter every day. The printed page was his canvas. He used words the way Jackson Pollock used paint. He splattered them but never with reckless abandon. He wrote as he dressed with style and precision in equal measure. He was to use his own phrase radical chic, Tom Wolfe was 88 years old.

And that is our broadcast on a Tuesday night. Thank you so very much for being here with us. Good night from NBC News headquarters here in New York.


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